I heard about Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 over on Bike Forums and happened to run across it a few weeks at the local Borders bookstore. It’s written by Mike Magnuson and chronicles his physical, emotional, and mental transformation after turning to bicycling.
If the cover of this book doesn’t shock you then you need to take a look at it again. When I first saw it I could have sworn I was looking at a picture of myself with the exception of the hairstyle. For those of you that don’t know me that was probably a little too much info and you’ll probably be tramatized for life from the visual alone. When I took the book to the checkout the little old lady behind the counter gave me an odd look when she saw it. I was thinking, “Don’t say anything. Just ring it up.”
The book opens with Mike talking about a group ride he was on and where he was attacking the group on a hill. As he topped the hill and began the descent he was hit by a truck and thrown from his bike. After this incident Mike starts the story of his life and how he transformed himself from an overweight smoker and drinker to a bike racer.
The book is a very good read. He goes into a lot of detail talking about work, family, his addictions to alcohol and smoking, and the destructive death spiral he was in. Mike was a chain smoker, was getting drunk several nights a week with his students (he was an English Professor), and weighed over 255 pounds before turning to bicycling. Even after hitting the bike he was still getting drunk and smoking and it wasn’t until later that he made a commitment to do his 180. I’m sure him continually getting dropped like a bad habit on the group rides had something to do with it. At least he had the courage to do a group ride. I haven’t taken that step yet.
Heft on Wheels: A Field Guide to Doing a 180 is a quick read; I finished it in about three days. There are a few things I want to point out though:
- The title is a bit of a misnomer. To call the book “A Field Guide to Doing a 180” isn’t too accurate. The book is good at describing Mike’s 180 but I would hardly classify it as a field guide. It’s a story that’s inspirational, sad, and funny. If you’re looking for tips, meal plans, worksouts, etc., you would be better off purchasing The Cyclist’s Training Bible. If, on the other hand you want to read about one man’s struggle with his inner demons, and get inspired at the same time, then this is the book for you.
- Being an English Professor, Mike is accustomed to writing and I think his style sometimes makes the book hard to read. He likes to use very long sentences and you’ll find yourself going back and re-reading paragraphs. I’m not kidding. In the first three pages of the book alone you can find sentences in excess of 50 words with one or two in excess of 80.
- At times I thought he left me hanging off the back of the pack by not finishing some of the stories.
The verdict? A must read. I found this book at the right time and it has been an inspiration to me. As I read through the book I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and how I needed to do a 180. After finishing the book, not only did I admire Mike and what he did but I admired his wife just as much if not more. To be able to put up with, and deal with, everything Mike was must have taken a woman if unbelievable strength.
Have you read this book and have an opinion? If so, please leave a comment below.
If you’re looking for more good cycling books to read be sure to check out the Top 20 Bestselling Cycling Books.